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Learning to Teach

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More than 2,800 students log online to attend Michigan Virtual Charter Academy. The state’s largest virtual school is also one of its worst performing districts. Yet every single teacher was rated “highly effective” for the last two years, according to data recently released by the state.

Mark Brush / Michigan Radio

Today, we reported about how much teacher evaluations vary from district to district. It makes comparing teachers across the state pretty much impossible.

But here’s a breakdown of where districts report the best and worst teachers are.

Andrew Taylor / Creative Commons

We know we want to attract and keep the best teachers in Michigan, but how do we know who the best teachers are?

School leaders across the state started measuring how teachers stack up in 2011. But the teacher effectiveness ratings, as they’re called, can be pretty useless.

We will pay for our lack of respect for teachers

Apr 2, 2015
Courtesy of TeachingWorks

The Next Idea

Teaching matters. We know that it can make the difference between a child learning to read by third grade, being confident in math, and developing the mindset necessary for success. Yet skillful teaching is not commonplace, and it’s hurting our society. Three reasons stand out:

Kate Wells / Michigan Radio

All this week we’re talking about teacher training.

But there’s one thing that’s almost impossible to teach students in college: how to manage a classroom.

FLICKR USER DREAD PIRATE JEFF / FLICKR

As part of our “Learning to Teach” series this week, we’ve been talking about teacher effectiveness.

Paramount to that effectiveness are teacher evaluations.

“There’s nothing more powerful to move the needle in student learning gains than great teaching,” said John Austin, president of the State Board of Education.

Austin says evaluations must be improved on all levels of a teacher’s career. That includes supporting new teachers in their learning, professional development, and creating rewarding teacher career paths, so that teachers advancing in their careers don’t solely end up  in administration and out of the classrooms.

We asked all 148 Michigan lawmakers the following questions:

"Do you have K-12 school-aged children?"

"If so, what type of school do they attend?"

"What type of K-12 school did you attend?"

See our infographic below.

The chambers inside Michigan's Capitol.
user CedarBendDrive, ae1106, and Lester Graham / Flickr/Michigan Radio

Jeff Salisbury asked us this question as part of our M I Curious news experiment. It's where you ask a question, questions are put to a vote, and we investigate the question with the most votes. 

creative commons

In our informal survey, 61% of teachers indicated that better pay is the best way to retain teachers. As part of our "Learning to Teach" week at Michigan Radio, Joshua Cowen, an associate professor at the Education Policy Center at Michigan State University, discusses teacher pay in the state.

Learning to Teach: Series roundup

Mar 31, 2015

For our education series Michigan Radio turned its attention to teacher preparation and retention in Michigan. We talked to teachers and administrators about what it takes to become an excellent educator and how we keep teachers in our K-12 classrooms. 

The entire station was involved across our news, politics, and culture programs. Stories aired on Morning Edition and All Things Considered. On our website we has special features looking at one of the most talked-about, but misunderstood professions today. On Stateside with Cynthia Canty, we featured interviews with teachers and education researchers to find out more about the challenges to teacher retention.

Here's everything we covered. Listen to the teachers, administrators, parents, consultants, and student teachers working to improve Michigan's education system. 

Kristen Van Ollefen leads 5th graders to her music class at TEP.
Dan Bobkoff / Courtesy of WBEZ in Chicago

This week, Michigan Radio is presenting Learning to Teach, a series of reports on the state of teaching in Michigan.

Teachers in Michigan average around $61,000 a year in salary, with starting salaries in the $36,000 range.

Would paying our teachers more lead to better teachers and more effective learning environments for Michigan kids?

A charter middle school in the Washington Heights area of New York City is testing this theory. It’s a school that serves mainly low-income Latino students.

Auburn Elementary

In many undergraduate education programs, students spend a lot of time in the university classroom to prepare them for their student teaching in the final year. 

Until that placement, theory sometimes has little chance to meet up with practice.

We already know what it takes to train great teachers

Mar 30, 2015
teacher with student
BES Photos / creative commons http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

The Next Idea

Just a couple of years ago, a colleague of mine – a woman who has taught for over 25 years – broke down in front of me after school one day and cried her eyes out.

She felt like she was failing her students, not because of her inability as a teacher, but because “the system” has increasingly made it impossible for her to meet their needs. 

user Wonderlane / Flickr

There's wide agreement among education experts that teacher quality is the most important school-based factor in how students do in school.

Kimberly Springer / Michigan Radio

All this week on Stateside with Cynthia Canty, we'll be hearing from some of the teachers who responded to our survey about retaining teachers in Michigan. 

This infographic summarizes what a lot of them had to say about what keeps them in their classrooms. But, some educators told us why they eventually left Michigan to teach elsewhere or left the profession altogether. 

We've heard so much about teachers as lawmakers and administrators go back and forth over educational reforms.

Isn't it about time we listened to what teachers have to tell us? 

Kids at a public school in Flint.
Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

The State of Michigan wants its next generation of teachers to know more.

But raising educational standards for teachers is proving to be a challenge.


Here's what you remember your teachers saying to you

Mar 30, 2015

The Teachable Moment Project collected remembrances from you of the teachers in your life.

By intentionally leaving “memorable words” open to your interpretation, we heard from you about teachers who inspired you, as well as teachers who derailed dreams.

All next week, Michigan Radio will air a special series of reports looking at teaching and how well Michigan’s colleges and universities are doing at turning out effective teachers.

There is wide agreement among education experts that teacher quality is the most important school-based factor in how students do in school. But how do we define what makes a good teacher?